So, since my last slightly rant-y post (I know you love rant-y posts the most and don’t pretend otherwise), things did indeed begin to look up. If I didn’t know better, I’d have said someone had got hold of that post and decided to take pity on me.
Firstly, having only been invited to one out-of-school event before (see: On Wednesdays We Eat Schnitzel), I suddenly received a flurry of invitations from teachers. On Monday morning, I was invited to some kind of music event in Linz that evening. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I’m not a spontaneous person, so on-the-day invitations to do things when I’m not sure exactly what they are with people I don’t know in a language I can’t speak make me nervous. I haven’t had the hours necessary to mentally prepare! On the other hand, it didn’t even cross my mind to refuse. All I understood of the German was that I had to meet them in Linz at the Musiktheatre at 7pm for something vaguely musical. I understood the word ‘salsa’ and so assumed we would be dancing (oh, God…). Because I like to live life on the edge (just not spontaneously on the edge, you know), I didn’t look up what we were actually going to be doing. When I arrived at the huge fancy theatre just in time to neck half a glass of prosecco with the teachers, they explained to me that it was actually a jazz concert with ‘salsa beats’. Excuse me?
I’m not a huge fan of jazz in itself. The thing I really do like about jazz is that people who play or like jazz really play or like jazz, and I love to watch people do things they’re passionate about. So I had a good time, and I really appreciated the lovable Italian composer who played the piano like a maniac, told sweet little stories between songs, changed the entire order of the set at a moment’s notice (much to the band’s dismay) because ‘I just feel like it’s the perfect moment for this song’, and insisted on high-fiving, fist-bumping or hugging every member of the band after each song, even though his shirt was drenched with sweat. Afterwards, one of the teachers gave me a lift back to Rohrbach and we chatted in German the whole way. By the time I got home, I was exhausted, very happy and maybe slightly deaf.
Then, I was invited (sort of accidentally, by the sounds of it) to a Keksabend – confusingly, that’s a biscuit evening, not a cake evening. Marina invited me, though I was the only non-Spanish teacher at the evening – I think they feel a bit sorry for me, because the English department doesn’t seem to be that sociable. I scoffed a bit at first – a biscuit-making evening? Where we’ll bake and cut out biscuits and decorate them together? How old are we, seven? But as usual, I ending up eating my words (and many, many biscuits).
After school on Wednesday, Marina and I made a very experimental dough at my house from a recipe her mum sent her. First, we had to translate the Spanish to German – not an easy task when I don’t speak Spanish and neither of us speak German (well). We had to guess which type of flour we should use (take note, Austria – you have an unnecessary amount of types of flour. Stop that). Then we couldn’t find vanilla essence, so used almond flavouring instead. Then we couldn’t find chocolate chips, so we bought a chocolate santa, smashed him to bits and used that instead. Like I said – experimental.
Back at mine, we realised I didn’t have any scales and only had half an hour, so we entirely guessed proportions and made a very sticky dough, which we took on the bus to one of the Spanish teachers’ houses. We wandered hopelessly around the village in the drizzle, occasionally passing a man pushing a buggy who smiled pityingly at us. The third time we passed him, he asked – can I help you? and I replied, Unfortunately probably not, we don’t know where we’re going… and he said I think you might be looking for my wife… and as it turned out, we were. So, for the second time since arriving in Austria, I went home with a strange man and nothing bad happened to me (don’t follow my lead).
We had a really lovely evening – everyone had made a dough and we all set about rolling and cutting and transferring to baking trays, all the while talking and joking in a mixture of German, dialect, Spanish and, in my case, Italian, because it’s the closest thing to Spanish I can manage. I had a great time with her young son, learning vocab by asking him what the shape of every biscuit cutter was. He thought it was hilarious that I didn’t know the words for things and took great delight in telling me, ‘That’s called a camel. That one is a bell. That one’s a soup flask. That’s a saw.” (They had some strange biscuit cutter shapes). My absolute favourite moment of the evening was when he made a biscuit for his baby brother, and when I asked why he was cutting the biscuit so small, he told me that they were babykeks and it took every ounce of self control that I have to not break out into babycakes, you just don’t know know…
Against all odds and in spite of everyone’s expectations, the dough that Marina and I made actually turned into passable amaretti biscuits, which were not at all what we’d had a recipe for, but they were really good nonetheless! We also had Vanillekipferl and Lebkuchen and other nameless biscuits sandwiched together with jam and dipped in chocolate. All the teachers had brought Tupperware in which to take home biscuits, but on producing mine from my bag I was told it was too small and given one at least four times the size, full to the brim with Keks.
In fact, the teachers generally have warmed to me since I last posted. Partly because my German has got a bit better (though holding a conversation with me in German is still by no means an easy task – Eva accosts me twice a week when I get back from my German class demanding, Are you good at German yet?? and the answer is always a resounding NAH) and partly because I think they feel a bit sorry for me, shoved in the corner of the staffroom with my laptop. It definitely also helped that after the Keksabend, I offered round biscuits in the staffroom as much as I could because no one person should eat that many biscuits in a lifetime, let alone in a few days.
In other news, this week five people remarked on my horrendous Austrian accent, one of whom didn’t beat around the bush and told me in no uncertain terms that I sound like a farmer.
Oh, and it’s now really really cold here.
Until next time, Wiederschauen!